Is Mazda’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Volkswagen’s?

For midsize SUV safety ratings, The Volkswagen Atlas was a Top Safety Pick, but the Mazda CX-9 was a Top Safety Pick+. Safety features may lower your car insurance rates for midsize SUVs.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • In its first year, the Volkswagen Atlas managed to win a Top Safety Pick+ award
  • The CX-9’s redesigned optional features on certain trims helped it to have higher scores in safety categories
  • While comparable to the Atlas, some safety features on the CX-9 can help you save money on the insurance for your vehicle


Because midsize SUVs are larger than the traditional coupe or sedan vehicles, many people who drive them have a false sense of security. Even though most people think midsize SUVs are inherently safe, this isn’t always the case.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings show only about half of midsize SUVs are extremely safe while the other half fail to meet standards set by the institute.

The Institute does their best to safely create simulations of situations that could happen in the real world.

After the simulations are nearly identical to what could happen in a real situation, the cars are tested. They go through the tests using crash test figures to help the IIHS understand how people will be hurt during each of the different types of collisions.

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The IIHS Performance and Ratings

The point of the IIHS doing these tests is so people will understand how safe their chosen vehicle is. The tests and subsequent ratings can also help people make the often difficult decision on the type of car they are going to purchase.

People will be more inclined to purchase cars that are safer because they want to be sure they’ll be protected in an accident.

The tests always result in a rating. The ratings are as follows:

  • P for poor
  • M for marginal
  • A for acceptable
  • G for good

In the front crash prevention tests, several factors are tested and the vehicle will be considered basic, advanced or superior. All of these tests show the safety of a vehicle in different areas.

Crash Tests

The tests the IIHS developed were created specifically to determine what would happen in a collision in a realistic situation. They look at the way the vehicle folds under the weight of a collision and how sturdy the sides of it are.

The IIHS also tests the strength of the roof by putting it through tests that simulate a rollover in a vehicle.

The Mazda CX-9 and the Volkswagen Atlas both received “good” ratings for each of the crashworthiness tests. They were able to pass all the crashworthiness tests.

The CX-9 had better results from the sides, but the Atlas received a better score for the safety of the head restraints.

Avoidance, Mitigation, Headlights

The Volkswagen Atlas had the same score, but it lost one point for the crash avoidance. Both of the vehicles met standards for front crash warning systems.

Both of the vehicles were able to avoid a collision going 12 miles per hour with the auto brake system.

The Volkswagen Atlas was only able to reduce its speed by 12 MPH when the auto brake was applied going 25 MPH. The CX-9 avoided an accident.

In addition to the crash avoidance, the headlights of both vehicles passed safety standards. The CX-9 was able to pass with an “acceptable” score because of the function of the headlights.

The Altas only received a “marginal” score because the vehicle’s headlights were not as bright as they should be, they also didn’t have as much reach as they should have on the sides.

LATCH System Effectiveness

The scores are based on the ease of use of the carseat anchors. The Mazda CX-9 had two seats with full latch, two with tether-only and one with no hardware. The Atlas has three with full latch and two with tether-only.

Despite having more LATCH systems, the Atlas scored worse on the test.

The CX-9 had a score of acceptable, but the Atlas had a score of marginal. The Atlas score was because the systems were too hard to reach and required too much force to be applied to use.

The only reason the CX-9 scored acceptable instead of good was that the seat had hardware that could have been confused with the LATCH hardware.

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Awards from the IIHS

The Mazda CX-9 received a Top Safety Pick+ award. The Volkswagen Atlas received the Top Safety Pick award. The Volkswagen was the lowest-rated Top Safety Pick, but it still managed to be a part of the awards group.

The Mazda had to meet the guidelines of scoring “good” for all crashworthiness tests and “acceptable” or better for the mitigation and LATCH systems to get the Top Safety Pick+.

The Top Safety Pick award still requires cars to score “good” for every crashworthiness test, but it allowed for marginal scores on LATCH and headlights.

The Mazda CX-9 is a safer midsize SUV than the Volkswagen Atlas because of its scores. Even though the Atlas is not as safe as the CX-9, it is safer than most other midsize SUVs.

How the IIHS Ratings Help Save Money

There are many safe midsize SUVs, but the ones that have been awarded the Top Safety Pick+ award will always be safer than those that have not received any awards.

They will also be less expensive because of safe car insurance discounts.

Choosing a vehicle like the CX-9 with a + rating over one that is just a Top Safety Pick like the Atlas will help you be safer while on the road. Compare online car insurance rates now by entering your ZIP code into the toolbox below!

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